Glancing at the headlines, it might seem like drug companies have a hard time avoiding anger over the prices of medications.
But public opinions about them have changed in some surprising ways in recent years, especially amid controversies over the high and rising prices of drugs, specifically in the US.
A new analysis from the research consulting firm Reputation Institute evaluated public perceptions of 17 pharmaceutical companies in seven areas: products and services, innovation, workplace, governance, citizenship, leadership, and financial performance. These contribute to companies’ «RepTrak» score.
The report drew from 16,800 ratings done by people in eight countries, including the US, Canada, and the UK.
The report found that on average, drug companies’ reputations have been going up over the past few years. The company with the highest reputation was AbbVie. Young people aged 18-24 tended to have a lower impression of pharmaceutical companies than older age groups. And of the eight countries included in the survey, those in the US had the most favorable view of the industry.
Check out the Reputation Institute’s drug company scores, ranked from lowest to highest:
17. Pfizer. RepTrak Points: 68.4
Pfizer, which is known for drugs like Lipitor and Viagra, had the lowest reputation of the 17 companies the Reputation Institute looked at. Pfizer didn’t fare as well as its pharma counterparts in terms of its reputational ranking.
16. GlaxoSmithKline. RepTrak Points: 68.5
GlaxoSmithKline, headquartered in the UK, along with Pfizer were the only two companies that had «average» reputations, while the rest had «strong» reputations. GSK became the first big pharma company to have a female CEO when Emma Walmsley took on the role in March.
TIE 14. Novartis. RepTrak Points: 70.4
Switzerland-based Novartis scored a higher reputation than last year, which was the case for all but two companies.
TIE 14. AstraZeneca. RepTrak Points: 70.4
AstraZeneca is a British-Swedish pharmaceutical company known most widely for its acid reflux medication Nexium.
13. Bristol-Myers Squibb. RepTrak Points: 70.5
Bristol-Myers Squibb, the New York-based pharmaceutical company known for its diabetes and heart-related drugs, didn’t have much of a change in perceived reputation in 2016 compared to 2015.
12. Merck KGaA. RepTrak Points: 71.6
Merck KGaA, a German drug company, was one of the companies that had a lower reputation compared to last year’s report.
11. Allergan. RepTrak Points: 71.8
Allergan, the maker of Botox, had a higher reputation than it did in 2016. In September 2016, Allergan committed to only single-digit drug-price increases, a line it closely hugged for some drugs.
10. Eli Lilly. RepTrak Points: 71.9
People’s perceptions of the reputation of Eli Lilly, the Indianapolis-based company known for its diabetes medications, increased by 4 points over 2016.
9. Sanofi. RepTrak Points: 72.0
Sanofi, a French company known in part for its diabetes medicines and vaccine program, increased its reputation by four points, though it fell three places from #6 to #9. In May, Sanofi set the strictest price increase caps. The company committed not to increase the list price of existing drugs in the US by more than the rate of healthcare inflation and also plans to launch new drugs with included rationale regarding how it set the price.
8. Merck. RepTrak Points: 72.2
New Jersey-based Merck’s reputation score fell almost 2 points in 2017. The company makes Gardasil, the vaccine designed to protect against the sexually transmitted infection HPV, and the drug credited with helping former President Jimmy Carter get cancer-free.
7. Bayer. RepTrak Points: 72.3
Bayer, the German company that has its hands in everything from pharmaceuticals to consumer products like Aspirin and Alka Seltzer to agriculture products, had the best reputation in 2016. In 2017, the competition was a bit more fierce, and its reputation didn’t increase quite as much as some of its peers.
6. Gilead Sciences. RepTrak Points: 72.4
This was the first year Gilead was included in the Reputation Institute’s survey. Right out of the gate, the drugmaker — known for its HIV and hepatitis C treatments — finished with a «strong» reputation.
5. Janssen Pharmaceuticals. RepTrak Points: 72.5
Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical unit that makes blockbuster drugs including Remicade and Stelara, made the top five. In February, the drugmaker pulled back the curtain on drug pricing, detailing its average list price compared to its average net price after rebates and discounts. The companies’ drugs had an average list price increase of 8.5% in 2016 while its net price increase was just 3.5%.
1. AbbVie. RepTrak Points: 74.5
AbbVie, the North Chicago-based company that spun out of Abbott Laboratories in 2013, shot through the rankings after its debut at #10 in 2016. AbbVie is known for its blockbuster drug, Humira, and in 2016, the company acquired cancer drugmaker Stemcentrx in what was the second-largest acquisition in the history of venture capital.
A Product Manager with expertise in pharma marketing and sales operations